Quest for Fire at Ground Zero 7/19
I still remember my first Quest for Fire show. In fact, I think it was THE first Quest for Fire show, too. I remember standing in one of the tiniest basements I’ve ever seen a show in, surrounded by a handful of friends. I don’t remember the name of the house and I have NO IDEA who else played. All I remember is Quest for Fire, and how I didn’t really know what to think, other than that it was FUCKING AWESOME.
It went from blast beat-y grindcore to stoner grooves to bitchin’ CCR-style guitar solos; it was all over the place. It made no sense, really, but somehow it was perfect. In the intervening years, Quest has evolved quite a bit, but if anything, they’ve only gotten weirder. They’re tighter as well, of course, and have a better grasp on how to write songs—older Quest material often feels like a mishmash of sweet riffs. But on the batch of songs that makes up their recently released self-titled LP, they’ve found a sweet, sticky cohesion.
While there are still plenty of what-the-fuck moments, the songs have started to make sense as songs, even if you still fail to understand just how they do.
Over the next five years, I made a point to go to every Quest for Fire show that was feasible to attend. I’ve missed a few local shows here and there, for sure, but no more than a small handful. It became easy for me to say without even thinking that Quest for Fire was my favorite local band. Even now, there is no other Milwaukee band that I get this worked up over. Sure, there are other great local bands, some of which I can barely contain myself when talking about, but Quest has managed to remain consistently the best band in Milwaukee, in my opinion at least.
That’s the thing though—EVERYONE who sees them feels this way. I mean, not to put words in a lot of disparate mouths, but it’s true. People who hate hardcore or bands with screamy vocals or guitar solos or any of the other things Quest has that ties them to one particular genre or another, it doesn’t matter—even those people still fucking love Quest for Fire. Part of it may be because they transcend genre so effortlessly. Of course, that’s largely due to the wide range and disparity of their influences, from the sickest goregrind to the sludgiest doom, the angriest hardcore punk to the classic-est classic rock.
That said, Quest for Fire is still a hardcore band. They’re more Black Flag than Black Sabbath, and they are particularly adept at writing the kind of energetic songs that make you pump your fist or slamdance your ass off. That they appeal to people who normally couldn’t give a shit about hardcore isn’t really the point. Quest stirs things up in a scene that’s stale, where trying new things means little more than incorporating recycled thrash riffs into your samey D-Beat crust.
Yeah, you could say Quest is taking a similar approach by incorporating non-hardcore elements—but never does Quest feel derivative or aping. It’s something entirely new from familiar ingredients, rather than just spurting some hot sauce on the same old Ramen noodles.
They’re weird, loud, and unflinchingly brutal while remaining wholly rooted in DIY and the basement scene. Quest for Fire makes me feel the same excitement I felt when I heard my first punk record as a kid, and that’s kind of a big deal—especially in a scene where stagnation reigns and experimentalism/pushing the boundaries of genre are total anathema.
It’s also why it’s bumming me out so much that they’ve only got a handful of shows left before they’re no longer a band, and further, that only one of those is in Milwaukee.
Sure, the reason they’re breaking up is one of the better ones—guitarist Tom Needham is moving to Georgia to pursue his doctorate in mathematics—and I know that all of the players will continue to be active and make great music. But Quest for Fire disbanding will leave an emptiness that will be very, very difficult to fill.